There is some bad language in this Carer Thoughts post.
The government are looking for a cross-party solution to the social care crisis. It’s a crisis that has been ongoing for some time. A mooted rise in Council Tax has got some people’s backs up. Meanwhile, perennial arsehole, Jeremy Hunt (yes, I did want to deliberately typo that) has suggested that people should save towards social care costs like they contribute to their pensions. Because that makes sense.
Jeremy Hunt is a man with no idea how the real world works. Most people live to an age where they need their pension. Many do not live to an age where they need social care. That he doesn’t seem to understand this, nor consider the effects such a scheme may have on low-waged people, is evidence of his disconnection with said real world. He also doesn’t seem to consider the effect it might have on long-term, full-time carers.
Carers Need Care Too
Us carers are chumps. We save the country over £100bn per year by most estimations. Incidentally, it’s a similar figure to what the Taxpayers Alliance claim the government piss away every year. The government likes carers. They can pay us a pittance, regard us as not really working but with a special status that requires us not to seek work (still have to attend work-focused interviews) and they can treat us like shit.
The government also likes to pretend it cares about carers. It doesn’t, though. Why would it? Carers save the government all this money but have no real voice in society. We’re given platitudes every year on Carers Day. There’s a minimum amount of support afforded to us in the Care Act. That’s it and it is not enough.
They know we’re not really going to kick up a stink about anything, primarily because most of us are too bloody knackered to mobilise. Carers organisations exist, but they’re limited to support roles and are hamstrung by a lack of finances. When the threat of rebellious carers emerged in 2009, the then-Labour government merely fobbed us off with some platitudes and continued to do nothing.
Doing nothing is good. There is an annual Carers Day, of course. As part of this day, Parliament considers carers. What this actually means, which you’ll see if you read this transcript, is that they humour us.
Why Do Something When You Can Do Nothing?
I’ll save you the details, but effectively we’re beautiful, generous people who should be saluted for our endeavours. Some of those who spoke highlighted relevant statistics, such as the 51% of carers who let a health problem go untreated because of their caring commitments. Or the 50% who report worsening mental health. How about the 47% who say they struggle financially? And there’s the 31% of carers who only seek help in an emergency.
There are other things too. We have the disparity between the minimum wage and the benefits paid to carers, by far the lowest benefit of its type available through the welfare system. There are the physical health problems associated with caring, reported by a staggering 80% of carers. The MPs discussed the use of food banks by carers and the fact that many carers face a choice between food and heating.
Yet despite all of this, the debate signs off with a simple resolution that Parliament has “considered carers” and off we go – to be repeated next year, as the meaningless fucking platitude that it is.
Right at the start of this debate, they highlighted one very key thing. Imagine if all 6.5 million of us didn’t do our job for one day? Could you imagine how quickly the social care system would collapse if carers decided not to be the nice, and oh-so-generous people that we’re hailed as? Of course, that isn’t going to happen, but because that isn’t going to happen the government has no requirement above “considering” us once a year and ignoring our very existence for the rest of it.
Only Carers Fight For Carers
Here I say to the government, what the hell is wrong with you? Let’s not even look at it from the humane angle! Are you incapable of realising that were you to assist unpaid carers that you might save money in other areas? Think about the mental health and physical health problems reported by carers. Begin to eliminate them, and you also reduce strain on the NHS (assuming you haven’t entirely sold it off to Richard Branson in three years time). Or are you instead rather hoping we’ll simply die when we outlive our usefulness?
What about education programmes for carers? How about some allowances on fuel bills? What about help with finances? And how about you try to identify the four out of five carers that are not currently recognised by the system?
If you actually want a country that works for everyone, then how about looking at the people who work damn hard, sacrificing their present and future out of love and doing some work for them?
You won’t, though. Because saying the right things is easier than doing the right things when there’s no pressure to do a damn thing.